Recording the first album without a previous vocalist is usually a curse on a band’s sound, cred, and whatever dork-speak you want to talk about the guys that spout, “Well, their first X number of records where good at least” (where X equals how awesome you are at liking metal, hardcore, and the heavier side of the musical spectrum), right? With co-vocalist Jamie Hooper sidelined by recurring throat problems and now out of the picture, high-pitcher Cam Pipes is the sole vocalist this time around (aside from guitarist Justin Hagberg’s backup growls). That results in lending 3 Inches of Blood an even more traditional sound on Here Waits Thy Doom, the band’s Century Media debut after a brief few years on Roadrunner. The group no longer has any original members… but their heart (and metal) is still in the right place.
Rest assured, as much as Hooper’s screamed vocals made 2002’s Battle Under A Wintersun and the band’s highly-publicized Roadrunner debut, Advance And Vanquish, intriguing listens, Pipes’ Halford-esque wail, alongside with Hagberg and fellow axe man Shane Clark’s tandem duel of galloping rhythms and 80s metal leads and the work of new drummer Ash Pearson, is enough to sustain the band. Thanks to producer Jack Endino (High On Fire, Toxic Holocaust, Nirvana, Skeletonwitch, etc.), all this comes out crisp, clean and clear, throwing back to the days of Maiden, Priest, UFO… and about ninety other bands from the late 70s and 80s that showcased standout melody above all else.
Thankfully, the focus is on melody. 3 Inches of Blood have constantly had to defend themselves against being a joke band, a parody, or a gimmick; song titles like “Rock In Hell” and lyrics that might give Manowar or Grim Reaper a run for their money don’t help the cause. It’s the tandem leads in “Fierce Defender” or the riffs from “Battles and Brotherhood” that will get fists pumping. A little cheese aside (I guess orcs, battlelore, and the like lend themselves to that), few are the faults to cite on Here Waits Thy Doom – unless the screaming in the band’s back catalog was an absolute necessity. The bulk of Here Waits Thy Doom speeds along in late-80s Priest musical territory with Pipes’ (by now) trademark falsetto and Pearson’s welcome restraint from constant double bass. Those of you over the age of twenty-five who own an extensive music collect that does not exist solely in mp3 format, take note of the Rainbow/Deep Purple sound of “Preacher’s Daughter” (Especially that ending build… hello, 1978!). Throw in two tracks pushing the seven-minute mark, and that ought to feed your gullet.
Truth be told, 3IOB kind of disappeared off this reviewer’s radar after the whole “Deadly Sinner” / “Oh my gosh, check it out! It’s a joke band” fanaticism (DragonForce, anyone?) and one lackluster listen through Fire Up The Blades, an album that seemed to come and go with little fanfare. Hopefully this time around, Century Media can help keep 3 Inches of Blood in the forefront for this album cycle, especially with such a resurgence of bands that are not single-handedly relying on monotone growls and over the top tech groove or breakdowns. A welcome addition to the collection.